The artist and inspiration
Dawn Isaac has always had a deep affinity with nature, landscape and wildlife. This passion infused her childhood, her studies and career and of indeed her desire to create, apparent from a very early age. With a BA in Landscape Architecture and MSc in Landscape Ecology, she gives equal commitment to the restoration of landscape and habitat in her work, as she does the study of materials and method, the value of recycling and exploration of nature’s designs in her creative pursuits. Even as a child she would draw and grow flowers with equal pleasure.
Dawn has a fascination for all things tactile. She has worked with most mediums - textiles, being a skilled embroiderer, glass too - but she always comes back to the clay. Ceramics provide an infinite number of possibilities - the connection with the earth - and then the element of risk and failure, never quite knowing, that suspense which is almost addictive, as she waits to see what the The Kiln Gods deliver. In contrast her sewing gives her that anchor, seeing and controlling her creations at every stage. The artist in her sometimes finds it difficult to decide when something is work in progress or finished. The timing involved can be very open and long or incredibly short, speedily finished and out of the door.
The honest craftswoman
Her work exudes an honesty, simplicity and practicality, with a great respect for her repurposed tools – knife and fork, cheap brush, grandma’s old rolling pin and tea strainer for making glaze and slip. Her studio, the erstwhile laundry room is busy, creatively chaotic with half-finished forms, things that need hooks, wire, rods, piles of something waiting to happen - a board for white clay, one for crank type stoneware, and one for messy black clay which gets everywhere. She recycles everything – the clay from pieces not fired, or not good enough to sell, packaging, fabrics to make patterns and imprints. She desires to share her work to audiences, but very specifically to sell her work to buyers. Like that she can continue to be self-sufficient, with then the ability to make more and create space!
The work: simplicity versus detail
Dawn’s work encapsulates her love for nature’s complexities while at the same time respecting the simplicity of its truths and resilience. Whether her more intricate work or larger bolder work, it is recognisable by its naïve qualities. She has taken much inspiration from the work of Alfred Wallis particularly with her boat themed tiles and plaques.
Her more intricate design ideas originate from specific related moments in time. She developed early on a love of delftware and has fond memories of the blue delft flower designs on the mosaic like square chocolates she loved as a child. On one of her research museum visits, she recalls being struck by flower designs incised into bricks and the links in armour allowing movement. Combined with her love of intricate stitched designs, this led her to create her first nature printed small sewn-together clay tiles which capture the flower or seed head which never cease to amaze her. The simple plants create the better masterpieces in her view. Her palette for this work has been predominantly blue, while at the same time introducing subtle tones of red, green, yellow and a dark slate grey. These interestingly mirror the palette of traditional Cornish ware, for which she developed a taste early on. The hanging tiles are still one of her most popular staple creations.
In contrast to the intricacies of her smaller work, Dawn depicts the simplicity of nature with larger more naïve outdoor sculpture created from crank type clay, used for its robustness, stone-like quality and interesting toasted appearance. These larger pieces, animals, faces, pots sometimes quirky or abstract or incorporating a moving part are highly simplified, their shape and natural colour contrasting with the greenery.
The future is exciting as Dawn draws on significant art learning experiences. She has attended numerous master workshops using a huge breadth of technique and material. She aims to develop one of her trademark incised white line techniques inspired by a one off memorable John Maltby week long workshop she attended. Her work with the Nature Printing Society in Oregon has led to seaweed nature printing on clay, also inspired by the influence Anna Atkins, 19th century nature printer.
During the Lockdown months, Dawn continued her desire to naturally expand her techniques joining the Wendy Kershaw ceramics decorative course, Sarah Pike's making textured rollers and other ceramic, photography and nature printing courses.
She will to continue to explore and push the boundaries of her learning and is starting to use and explore porcelain's translucency and ability to hold fine detail. Having already sold her Bonsai pots to a trade customer, she now looks forward to continue to learn and experiment making more intricate and finer examples.